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Archive for the 'USH: Jackson Years' Category

Andrew Jackson: Amazing

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

One hundred and seventy-nine years ago today, President Andrew Jackson had a close call. The 67-year-old president emerged from a funeral in the House chamber and was set upon by Richard Lawrence, a housepainter who was off that day. Initiating what would become the first assassination attempt in American history, Lawrence tried to fire his pistol. It made a large bang, but the president did not fall. The percussion cap had detonated, but the gunpowder failed to ignite.

Jackson then brained his attacker with his cane. The blow did not significantly muddle Lawrence, because he was already very muddled in the head. He had attacked the seventh president because he believed that the U.S. government owed him a large sum of money. Jackson, who was engaged in a brutal struggle with the Whigs over the National Bank, was nevertheless not in control of it or any other bank. Still, Lawrence would not be deterred from his belief that if he killed Jackson the funds would be released and he would take his place as the rightful King of England and Rome. Though he was confused about the line of succession, he was thorough. He produced a second pistol, which he also attempted to fire. It too would not discharge. At this point everyone stopped so that a fine pen and ink drawing could be made. Then, Jackson was assisted by others, including Davy Crockett of Tennessee, then a member of Congress, who was apparently serving on the Readiness-in-Case-of-Crazy-Historical-Moments subcommittee of the House It-Can’t-Get-Any-Weirder Committee.

Lawrence was subdued and ultimately found not guilty by reason of insanity and very bad luck. It was later discovered that he had asked the Jackson administration for a civil service appointment and was denied. He lived the rest of his life in an institution.

Researchers at the Smithsonian Institution studied Lawrence’s derringers a century after the assassination attempt. Both fired on the first try.

Five months later, Jackson would also receive another threat. A man wrote him a letter from a Philadelphia hotel promising to slit his throat while he slept if he did not release two pirates being held in prison. Nothing became of it. The killing of a president would be left to the correspondent’s son, John Wilkes Booth.

-Thanks John Dickerson at Slate

Mudslinging in 1800 and Beyond

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

I want to push back a bit on the Diehl-Rocks thesis that the election of 1828 is the genesis of dirty campaigning. Thomas Jefferson supporters accused Adams of being a hermaphrodite with “neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” In response, the Adams campaign accused Jefferson of being the son of a half-breed Indian squaw and a mulatto father.

Of course the election of 1800 is just the beginning. One of my favorites was in 1876 when Democrats accused Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes of shooting his own mother and stealing the pay of dead soldiers while he was a Union general.

None of the above had to show their original long form birth certificate.

 

Bad Precedent: Andrew Jackson’s assault on habeas corpus

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Jackson was a natural populist, but he also had a fiercely autocratic streak. One enemy likened him to an “exasperated rhinoceros.”

Read this piece on Jackson’s attack on civil liberties from the New Yorker

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